Good afternoon to all my Sensibility and Sense followers! It’s been several weeks since I’ve posted an update; I’ve been hesitating because of these uncertain days and times we find ourselves in. But because I firmly believe that “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of love, power and a sound mind,” I know that any happy news when everything pulls us in other ways can be a balm to the soul. So today I wanted to share with you. . .
I have a book deal!
After years of waiting, working, hoping and praying, Little Lamb Books has connected with 2 of my picture books and offered me a contract. If things go as planned, you’ll be holding MRS. NOAH and MILLIE’S CHRISTMAS MIRACLE in your hands in the fall of 2021 and 2022, respectively. You can read about how it all happened here:
I want to thank each and every one of you that has commented here throughout the years, followed me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and anywhere else I hang out, offered encouragement and a shoulder and listening ear when I was discouraged. You have no idea how much each thing means to a writer with a dream and a passion for creating uplifting content for young readers.
And so now, as we all continue to hunker down, stay at home, wash our hands, reach out to those in need and generally take care of each other, please know that all of you are in my thoughts and prayers. May God’s peace and hope fill your homes and your hearts as we all wait this out together.
Music runs deep in my family’s veins. I’m not sure how it all got started, but I know my great-grandparents on my mother’s side loved music and fiddle playing and clogging. It didn’t take much of a tune to have my grandmother and her sisters up and dancing that’s for sure. I learned how to clog in Granny Grace’s kitchen (my great aunt), and every now and then, when my Mama Glad was working in the kitchen she’d start to “cut a rug” and we’d all join in. She had a music room in every house she ever lived in, fully decked out with a piano, organ, banjo, several guitars (including a beautiful Gibson), a drum kit (sometimes), harmonica and even an accordion. When my sister and I were old enough, she’d play the organ while one of us played the piano, and we’d sing and laugh and sing some more. What a gift!
So when I saw my youngest on stage for her autumn college orchestra concert this weekend step to the microphone, welcome guests, lead in prayer and take her seat in the cello section, I thought about how all this love for music has trickled down to children, grandchildren and now great-grandchildren over many years. I thought, what if my great grandmother, who died when Mama Glad was only 11, hadn’t passed the gift on to her daughters? What if Mama Glad hadn’t sat down at the piano for the first time or picked up a guitar or banjo, what would our lives be like now? My mom and dad both have beautiful voices, my sister sings, plays and the piano and organ and teaches elementary music, I play the piano, a little organ, and my husband and I sing. My son, Wes, played the piano and trumpet and now pours his love of music into sound engineering, and his wife, Katie, loves music and sings! Both of my daughters play the piano, and Julia is also a violinist and Olivia a cellist. Julia graduated with a degree in Music Education last year and is now teaching, and Olivia will graduate in another year with a double major in music and marketing. Her dream is to start a nonprofit where low-income children can come and take lessons and record their musical creations for free in a recording studio so they can share their gifts with the world. I pour my love of music into every story I write for children; in the way the words appear on the page and how they feel in the mouth and sound to the ear. Music is everywhere in our lives.
Children need heritage. It connects them with the past, guides them in the present and offers hope for the future. As they grow, heritage can help children feel part of something so much bigger than themselves. Music for Mama Glad and her sisters looked very different from how it has been woven into my life and the lives of my children. But it’s all the same thread holding us together creating the patchwork quilt that is our story.
During this month of Thanksgiving, I hope you can look at your own family’s history and find the chords, notes or threads that create your unique song. Celebrate those with the ones you love and pass on the gifts to your children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. I promise you, they’ll be grateful.
Sensibility- There’s more to your stories than what you see on the page. Your history and personal journey find their way into everything you write.
Sense- Make a list of things your family loves to do. If you don’t know where the traditions began, try and find out how those things became part of your lives and share them with your family during this season of gratitude!
What are some of your family traditions? How did they get started?
I’m so thrilled to be part of THANKU: POEMS OF GRATITUDE, Edited by Miranda Paul and Illustrated by Marlena Myles (Millbrook, September 2019). It’s my debut as a children’s poet, and I couldn’t be prouder of the finished product. Part of the proceeds from the sale of this book help fund WeNeedDiverseBooks.org, an organization dedicated to diversity in children’s literature. All children need to see themselves in children’s books, both as characters and in the people who create them, and We Need Diverse Books is committed to making this happen!
I would especially like to thank Miranda Paul for making this work possible and for allowing me the chance to be part of it. Thanks, Miranda!
As we approach the season of Thanksgiving, I hope this book helps you and all the young readers in your home learn more about what being grateful means. Many blessings to you and yours in the coming weeks!
Sensibility-Gratitude is more than just saying, “Thank you!” It is an attitude of the heart!
Sense- Set aside time in the weeks ahead for thankfulness. A gratitude jar, a conversation at the dinner table or during quiet moments before sleeping or bedtime prayers help children grow their gratefulness each day.
What are some ways you and your family focus on gratitude during the holidays?
I attended the SCBWI Wonderful Midwest Conference last weekend in Naperville, Illinois, just outside of Chicago, and after taking last Monday completely off to reflect on all I’d learned, I’m jumping into some revisions with a new sense of purpose.
After you’ve been writing for a while, revising becomes a funny thing. Getting rid of words, scenes and even characters for the greater good of story isn’t nearly as difficult as it used to be, and cutting word counts by 50 percent can produce the same feelings you get after cleaning out a long-neglected closet, cabinet or dresser (think Marie Kondo here). The stuff sitting in bags waiting to bless someone else feels like the right benediction for things you no longer want or need. Writers don’t physically put words into trash bags and give them away, but releasing long-held sentences, ideas, thoughts and dialogue back into the universe to be repurposed can bring lightness in ways nothing else can. And once you let go and free up some mental space something amazing happens…you make room for fireflies.
Fireflies? Huh? Here’s what I mean. . .
I’ve been sitting on a middle-grade novel for a while now. It hasn’t been completely at the back of my writing closet—a few times I’ve pulled it out, reworked a chapter or two and submitted it for feedback, to an agent or contest—but I haven’t been committed to making it all it needs to be. Not sure why, other than I’m probably a little afraid of it. Kind of like that pair of shoes I hang onto, even though they’re uncomfortable and I can’t wear them for more than a few hours at a time, it feels good to say that I write middle-grade novels, even though I know it’s not really what I’m working on. But like I mentioned before, conferences do funny things to writers. Just about the time I’m committed to revising other projects because they are really important to me right now, I wake up in the middle of the night, see the darkness of the forest floor that is the setting for most of my novel and there, darting in and out of the 1000-year-old trees are 100’s of fireflies…something I’ve never seen there before.
It could be that as I’ve been cutting and rearranging words over the past week and organizing which projects to let go of and which ones to tackle, I made room to let in something new and different. My story asked me for something, and maybe, just maybe, I was ready to hear what it was trying to say.
I’m a big believer in God whispers. But I also know that like any other whisper, if you’re not still enough to hear it, the message might get lost on the wind and pass you by. I want to be listening. I long to be an on-purpose writer who is quiet enough to hear what God and my stories are trying to tell me. Last night it was fireflies. Who knows what it might be in the days and weeks ahead?
But I’m ready for more fireflies. . . are you?
Sensibility- Fireflies, new scenes, new characters, new ways of looking at story, all come when we quiet our spirits, clean out what’s getting in the way and listen for God whispers.
Sense- Prioritizing projects, planning your writing day, setting up an editorial calendar and spending time in quiet reflection are all ways to make room for new ideas.
What are some things you do to quiet yourself as you get ready to write?
I’m so happy to be able to share the beautiful cover and pre-order link for the upcoming poetry collection, THANKU: POEMS OF GRATITUDE, that I’m over-the-moon happy to be part of. Sometimes, a project speaks to your heart so profoundly that you’re at a loss for words as to how happy you are to see it come to life. That’s this project for me. It all started with an email from my writing partner, Lisa Rose, that said, “Did you see this? You should do it!” She was referring to a contest that the amazing and generous Miranda Paul was hosting on her blog to find two new poets to complete her collection of children’s poems about being thankful. So I thought, “Why not?” and wrote a poem about a child getting her first pair of glasses (that was me) and trying to be grateful for the huge change in her life. Of course, a kid might not get excited about a poem about just any girl getting her first pair of glasses, so I thought a special, well-known character might get the job done! And it did. Not long after submitting, I got the email from Miranda saying that she loved the poem and it was definitely in the running for one of the available slots. Then, a few weeks later, I got the email that said, “YES!” and I’ve been enjoying this journey…which included lots of edits and a few rewrites, ever since!
And even though I’m a little behind schedule, here it is…
I just signed up for STORYSTORM 2018, and I’m looking forward to 30 brand-spanking-new story ideas by the end of January! Thanks for hosting again this year, Tara Lazar, and happy 10th Storystorm Anniversary!
It’s smack in the middle between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, and I’m looking out my office window at a winter blue sky and fresh snowfall. It’s a white and wonderful around here, and I’m enjoying having my daughters home from college for a few more days and looking forward to our family New Year’s Eve celebration. I wanted to take this opportunity to wish all of you Happy Holidays and especially a Happy New Year! Thank you for making this writer’s journey so pleasant by visiting here and sharing your comments along the way. I appreciate each of you!
In the New Year, look for more installments on Writing for Today’s Child, author interviews, great giveaways and new services from PGWRites Critiques as I approach my 100th Sensibility and Sense post! I hope you’ll visit often and let me know your thoughts as we learn and grow together!
Here’s to a happy and healthy 2018!
Sensibility- Find a quiet moment between holiday activities to just think, breathe and be. Turn your heart to thankfulness for all the blessings in your life.
Sense-Instead of making New Year’s resolutions, consider making a list of reachable goals for each month of 2018. As long as you’re moving forward, even baby steps are steps in the right direction!
I’ve been doing some research about the lives of today’s children in my efforts to learn more about my audience, and I’ve come across some pretty startling statistics. For example:
1 in 6 people in America face hunger. That means more than 1 in 5 children is at risk for being hungry during a regular school day. Among African American and Latino American children, the risk is 1 in 3.
For every 100 school lunch programs, there are only 87 breakfast sites and 36 summer food programs.
Nearly half of the 1 in 7 people enrolled in SNAP programs are children.
Over 20 million children receive free or reduced-price lunches each day at school. Less than half of these kids get breakfast, and even less than that have access to a meal program in the summer.
40 percent of food is thrown out in the United States each year. That’s about $165 billion, and that amount could feed 25 million people.
Yep, you read that right…$165 billion…enough to feed 25 million hungry people; and a grotesquely large number of those are children. Pretty overwhelming stuff, considering we’re at the end of the season of thankfulness and just opening the door on the season of giving.
So what do these numbers have to do with writing for kids? Well, think about that for a minute. One in 5 children ARE hungry during the regular school day. That means when little Johnny or Susie picks up a book during library time, most days all he or she can think about is, “When’s lunch?” And I don’t know about you, but when I’m hungry, reading, thinking or any kind of concentrating is almost impossible. Now imagine if that same child picks up a book about making pancakes, or having a meal with family, or sitting down to a table laden with holiday goodness? I mean, don’t we all get a little bit hungry, even when we’re not if food flashes in front of our eyes?
Now let’s talk buying books. If more than 20 million children across America receive free or reduced-priced lunches, how many of them have ever or will ever hold a book in their hands that they’ve purchased with their very own money? And how does that figure into school book fairs where some families must choose between paying the rent or buying groceries, much less finding some extra cash so a child can be like his or her classmates and visit the book fair? Part of developing a life-long love of reading is the feeling that comes when you crack open a book of your very own. The smell. The sound of pages turning. The brightness of brand new pictures and paper that isn’t stained or torn. All of this creates memories that draw adults back to books. I know ebooks have their place, but for book lovers, there’s just nothing quite like it. If this love of books never develops because books aren’t accessible or kids are too hungry to read them, how is this impacting society as a whole?
When I was a teacher I wrote a different inspiring quote on the chalkboard each day (you know, that long green thing that used to hang in the front of the classroom:). One of my favorites was, “Readers are leaders.” But even the child with the absolute most potential for greatness in the world can’t lead when she’s hungry, because all she thinks about is, well, being hungry.
It would be great if the answer were as simple as putting hungry children in our stories so they can see themselves in what they read. Or don’t put hungry children in our stories so they won’t feel marginalized. Or don’t put food in our stories so we don’t create more hunger. Or put more food in our stories, or, or, or… you see the problem here, right? I guess, as with many other types of social injustice, writing in the most thoughtful way possible with the goal of shining some light on the problem without singling out children and making their lives more difficult is the best approach. Pretty tall order, but you’re a writer for children, remember? In your heart, you’ve taken a sacred oath to do just that. And if you haven’t you should, or find something else to do with your time.
The other thing you can do is put legs on your prayers for hungry children by seeking out ways to help. I read a really great suggestion on Facebook the other day about going to your local school and paying off outstanding lunch charges for children in need. You may not know this, but hungry kids fall through the cracks all the time, and not all families who need free and reduced-priced lunches get them for a variety of reasons. When these kids’ lunch charges exceed a certain amount, they can no longer get lunch and are forced to eat a dry cheese sandwich or a bowl of Cheerios. Yep. It’s the truth.
Another great idea is to help your local school start a sharing table! Sharing tables are no-judgment zones in school cafeterias. They help reduce food waste by encouraging children to place the food they don’t like or don’t want to eat on the table and choose something they do like instead. At the end of the day, any extra food is donated to charity to help feed the hungry in the community. It’s a win-win because kids who didn’t get quite enough can feel free to pick something off the sharing table without feeling embarrassed, and food that otherwise would have gone in the trash gets eaten. Some schools even pack up the leftovers and send them home with needy kids so their families can have just a little more that night. You can read more about Sharing Tables here:
Writers are doers.We “do” every day without having to punch a time clock. As long as we meet our deadlines, it’s all good. Put that writer “do” into finding ways to help end childhood hunger.
Then what will we have? More kids with satisfied tummies and books in their hands (the ones with your name on them). More readers. More leaders who remember what it’s like to be “that kid” and who work to change their world.
Kristin is the author of YA novel, THE ART OF HOLDING ON AND LETTING GO (Elephant Rock Productions, September 2016). The book was a Junior Library Guild Fall 2016 Selection and chosen for the 2017-2018 Great Lakes Great Books statewide literature program. Kristin’s success led to lots of speaking engagements and a flurry of activity as the book gained popularity. But what’s a newly-minted author to do when the process of promoting a book zaps your energy and leaves you feeling unable to write anything new? Kristin answers this important questions and more in this fabulous post that provides an honest perspective. Hope you enjoy it!
Happy New Year! I hope this post finds you and your families well and off to a great start to 2017. Wow, 2017! Seems odd to see that number in print, but here we are. It’s time for setting both goals and boundaries as we each dive into projects that make our hearts sing! So, in the spirit of this brand-spanking New Year, I want to offer a brand-spanking-new picture book critique special.
For the entire month of January (OK, I’m a little behind since one week has already passed! LOL) I’m offering two PGWRites picture book critiques for the price of one! That’s right…it’s a buy-one-get-one-free opportunity that typically only happens once each year.
So, if you’re ready to start this writing year off with a bang, save those last few changes on that manuscript you’ve been working on and send it in! Then, when you’re ready, you can send in another picture book manuscript for a second critique absolutely free (a $50.00 value)!
Just visit the PGWRites Critiques page and follow the instructions for payment and submitting your manuscript. It’s that easy! Hope to see lots of amazing stories in my inbox very soon!
Here’s to the best writing year ever!
Sensibility– New years are for new beginnings. Dream big and take that important first step.
Sense– Set goals you can reach in a reasonable amount of time. Biting off too much in the first few weeks of the New Year can set you up for failure!
On deck for next week. . . an interview with newly-minted picture book author, Jodi McCay. She’s stopping by to tell us all about her new book, WHERE ARE THE WORDS. And she’s also offering a MS critique (double bonus!). You won’t want to miss it!